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Artificial or Intelligent?

As a passionate homebrewer, I’ve found one of the most exciting aspects of this hobby is the constant innovation and evolution of a practice that is thousands of years old. And as a curious technologist I love incorporating new gadgets and software to enhance the enjoyment of my hobby. When ChatGPT landed on the scene in 2022, I was eager to start exploring the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and homebrewing and found this technology to be a welcome utility to the craft. So much so, that I created the website homebrewing.ai, which is dedicated to exploring and evangelizing the intersection of artificial intelligence and homebrewing.

In this article, I’ll explore the applications and potential of AI-assisted homebrewing and dive into creating a winter seasonal beer recipe using ChatGPT. So, with an open mind and a homebrew in hand, let’s embark on this thrilling AI-assisted brewing adventure. 

Preserving Tradition While Embracing Innovation

Brewing is a timeless practice that has been refined over thousands of years, with each generation of brewers adding their unique touch and contributing to the vast knowledge base we have today. It blends the art of intuitive decision-making with scientific precision, carefully measuring ingredients and respecting the biochemical processes during fermentation. Experienced brewers can predict how even a small alteration can affect the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of their beer. Their intuition, honed over countless brewing sessions, is the secret ingredient that turns a potential good beer into a great one. 

As we explore this intersection of AI in homebrewing, it’s crucial to remember the significance of these traditional brewing skills. AI can provide interesting insights and suggest novel combinations, but it will never replace the intuition and expertise of the brewer. Instead, AI should be seen as a valuable tool in the brewer’s toolkit, offering new possibilities for creativity and innovation, all guided by the brewer’s hand. 

In our modern digital age, the widespread influence of AI is evident across various domains, from powering virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa to aiding in complex medical diagnoses. Among the intriguing branches of AI, generative AI stands out as a source of considerable excitement. Unlike traditional AI models that follow predefined rules, generative AI can create new and unique content, spanning from music compositions to written works and even beer recipes. By analyzing extensive datasets and learning underlying patterns, generative AI models, like ChatGPT, have proven to be powerful tools for encouraging creativity and novelty in diverse fields — including the craft of brewing. 

Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform the homebrewing hobby if embraced, opening up a realm of possibilities for both novice and seasoned brewers. For beginners, AI can serve as an interactive and intriguing gateway into the hobby. It helps break down the barriers of entry by providing not only a set of instructions but also an opportunity to understand the intricate balance of ingredients that go into each brew. Not sure why a recipe would recommend a malt you’ve never used before? Just ask. Moreover, it complements the existing array of learning resources available to aspiring brewers. AI provides yet another valuable way to learn and experiment, adding a digital dimension to the traditional avenues of knowledge sharing. 

On the flip side, AI opens an exciting new frontier for veteran homebrewers to venture into. It has the power to generate unique and outrageous combinations, often surpassing what a human mind may conceive, thereby pushing the boundaries and defying traditional brewing norms. For instance, in a recent experiment, I utilized ChatGPT to design a brew inspired by a McDonald’s campaign celebrating Grimace’s birthday. The AI concocted a “Grimace-inspired Purple Milkshake IPA,” a recipe that not only challenged the conventional brewing paradigms but also brought to life an imaginative palette of color and flavors, reminiscent of the cherished character. For seasoned brewers, AI acts as a catalyst to step out of their comfort zones, inviting them to fine-tune and perfect the recipes curated by the AI. This infusion of technology can reignite a deep passion for a craft they have cherished and honed over the years. As an avid homebrewer myself, I once held reservations about milkshake IPAs. However, my curiosity led me to leverage ChatGPT, resulting in the whimsical Grimace’s Pride Milkshake IPA recipe with blackberries (you can read all about it at www.homebrewing.ai/post/brewing-up-pride-designing-a-grimace-inspired-purple-milkshake-ipa-with-chatgpt). 

Beyond recipe design, AI technology like ChatGPT offers a multitude of possibilities for homebrewers. It can serve as a valuable tool for troubleshooting and diagnosing brewing issues, exploring various beer styles, suggesting food pairings, providing insights on brewing technology and techniques, and even assisting in label and logo design for your homebrews. For instance, on the /homebrewing subreddit, it’s common to see community members sharing images of their brew at different stages, seeking advice or feedback. With the advent of visual AI capabilities in ChatGPT, the system could further enhance this community-driven troubleshooting. By analyzing images of your brew, visual AI could identify issues such as mold growth, unusual sediment, or color inconsistencies, providing a more precise starting point for community discussions or personal troubleshooting. Additionally, with ChatGPT’s ability to analyze water profiles, you could get interactive insights into the water composition and how it affects your brew, facilitating a more informed brewing process. The possibilities are vast, and AI technology adds a whole new dimension to the homebrewing experience. 

Skeptics might argue that AI in homebrewing is just another gimmick in a world saturated with technology. Yet, it’s much more than that. AI is not about replacing the human touch in brewing, but enhancing it. It’s a tool designed to inspire, not to take over. AI prompts, like the one that created the recipe found later in this article, are starting points, ideas to springboard off. They provide a basis that brewers can then build upon, modify, and perfect based on their intuition, expertise, and personal preference. 

Tips for Homebrewing with ChatGPT 

Before we start designing a recipe, let’s explore some essential guidance on working with this technology. Mastering the art of AI-assisted homebrewing involves striking a delicate balance between providing specific directions and embracing open-ended creativity. As you integrate models like ChatGPT into your brewing journey, it’s crucial to recognize that these models are imperfect. Occasionally, they may generate “hallucinations” or errors, necessitating careful review and human insight to harness their full potential. In designing a unique witbier once, ChatGPT suggested I use 7 lbs. (3.2 kg) of flowers to infuse the colors I was looking for! To achieve optimal results, consider the following pointers for crafting effective prompts: 

1. Clarity and Precision: The quality of AI’s output is largely dependent on the quality of your input or prompt. Be clear and explicit about your desires. If you want a recipe, specify the style of beer, your brewing method (e.g., all-grain, extract), batch size, desired ABV, and any specific ingredients you’re inclined to use. For example, you might prompt the AI with, “Create a recipe for a 5-gallon, all-grain IPA with an ABV of 6.5%. I want to use Cascade and Centennial hops for a citrusy character.” 

2. Providing Context: While AI is an impressive technology, it lacks personal experiences and cannot interpret subjective statements as humans do. So, phrases like “a perfect summer beer” or “a stout like the one I tasted in Dublin” may not provide desired results. Instead, try to describe these experiences in terms of specific flavors, ingredients, and emotions to provide a clearer context. 

3. Flexibility and Creativity: AI should be seen as a tool to inspire creativity, not a final authority. You can utilize AI to explore novel flavor profiles or generate initial drafts of recipes that you can then modify based on your brewing knowledge, ingredient availability, and personal preferences. For instance, you might ask, “Generate a recipe for a Belgian dubbel with an unusual twist by incorporating a fruit not typically used in this style.” Or, “Design a beer recipe inspired by the cult classic movie The Big Lebowski paying tribute to the lead character’s beloved white Russian drink. How about a creamy white Russian-inspired stout with notes of coffee and chocolate?” You can then take the output and adapt it to your
unique taste and style. 

Designing a Winter Seasonal Beer Using ChatGPT 

To illustrate the potential of AI in homebrewing, let’s look at an example where I used AI to design a winter seasonal beer specifically for this story. The winter seasonal beer style, as defined by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), has an overall impression of a stronger, darker, spiced beer with a rich body and a warming finish — a fitting accompaniment to the winter season. It carries a balanced aroma that’s malty, spicy, and fruity, subtly reflecting the holiday theme. The taste of dark or dried fruit often plays a part, and the hops usually remain understated. Alcohol is typically present but smoothly interweaved, providing supportive warmth without overpowering the other flavors.  

The resulting beer from a recipe ChatGPT started, which are bottled with AI-generated labels as well. 

To get started, I leveraged ChatGPT for the initial inspiration and provided a prompt to begin the process. Instead of offering a rudimentary prompt like “craft a recipe for a winter warmer,” I provided a detailed, specific prompt. The prompt was designed not only to align with the BJCP’s description of a winter seasonal beer but also to emphasize my personal preference of a pronounced chocolate note: 

Prompt: “Design a recipe for a winter seasonal beer that showcases a robust malt backbone and a pronounced chocolate note. Let’s also include traditional British hops. I’d like a wintery touch, so some warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg would be wonderful. However, it’s essential to ensure the spices aren’t too dominant and they harmonize with the other ingredients. Design this for a 5-gallon all-grain brewing system and aim for 7% ABV.” 

Having only brewed this style a few times in my 10 years of homebrewing, I approached the AI-generated output with curiosity, unsure of what to expect or how I would fine-tune it. ChatGPT swiftly presented the name “Chocolate Winter’s Embrace,” followed by the recipe and brewing process. Intrigued by the name, I decided to “embrace” it as a starting point for this winter creation. 

The recipe contained an interesting mix of Maris Otter pale malt as a base, with accents of caramel/crystal malt, chocolate malt, Munich malt, and a hint of roasted barley. To this, the AI added Fuggle hops, common in many traditional British ales, and rounded out the recipe with cinnamon and nutmeg for winter spices and cacao nibs for more chocolate depth, per my request.

As an experienced homebrewer, I know the value of adapting and fine-tuning a recipe to better align with my brewing style and palate. While it could have been brewed as presented, I chose to make several adjustments to the original AI suggestion. I changed the yeast strain, added yeast nutrient, and increased the base malt by a few pounds to strengthen the beer’s backbone. Additionally, I made tweaks to the water additions for the mash and modified the spice amounts and hop additions to better suit my own water profile and tastes. Once I entered the recipe into BeerSmith and tailored it to my system, I was ready to embark on the brewing journey without the assistance of ChatGPT. (Although, a little AI magic for cleaning up the mountain of brewing equipment after the brew day wouldn’t hurt — ChatGPT, where’s your brush when you need one?) 

When it came time to taste the resulting brew, I was met with a rich malt character, underpinned by a pleasing chocolate note. The winter spices were present but not overpowering, providing a warming finish. The adjustments to the yeast and water seemed to have worked well, yielding a beer with a satisfying balance and depth of flavor. While the recipe may have been intended for a winter seasonal beer, the flavor profile and ingredients suggest that it could also produce a delightful and satisfying porter-like brew. 

Like any brewer with a new recipe, I had thoughts on potential adjustments for the next iteration. Maybe a bit more spice at the end of the boil, or even in the secondary, or perhaps a different hop variety to draw out unique elements of the malt and spice combination. I’m sharing the recipe I brewed, to the right.

The Future of Homebrewing with AI 

Creating Chocolate Winter’s Embrace alongside ChatGPT was a fun experience, allowing me to step outside my usual brewing comfort zone and explore a style I don’t often venture into. The AI-generated base recipe served as a springboard for my creativity, as I adjusted and refined it through a delightful back-and-forth process, seeking feedback and making improvements along the way.  

As we peer into the future of homebrewing, the exciting potential of AI stands out. You may find yourself brewing beers with novel flavors, ingredients, or processes that you hadn’t previously considered thanks to the power of generative AI models like ChatGPT. The future of homebrewing is now entwined with AI, yet it remains a craft that is wonderfully human at its core.

AI-Generated Recipe*

Chocolate Winter’s Embrace

5 gallons/19 L, all-grain
OG = 1.078  FG = 1.014 
IBU = 22  SRM = 29  ABV = 7.4%

Ingredients 
13 lbs. (5.9 kg) Maris Otter pale ale malt 
1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) crystal malt (60 °L) 
1 lb. (450 g) Munich malt 
8 oz. (225 g) chocolate malt }
4 oz. (113 g) roasted barley (300 °L)
6 AAU Fuggle hops (60 min.) (1.5 oz./42 g at 4% alpha acids)
2 AAU Fuggle hops (10 min.) (0.5 oz./14 g at 4% alpha acids)
0.25 tsp. ground cinnamon (5 min.) 
0.25 tsp. ground nutmeg (5 min.) 
8 oz. (225 g) cacao nibs (secondary 7–10 days)  
0.5 tsp. yeast nutrient (10 min.) 
Imperial Yeast A10 (Darkness), White Labs WLP004 (Irish Ale), or SafAle S-04 yeast
2⁄3 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step By Step 
Crush grains and mash in with 4.5 gallons (17 L) of water at 156 °F (69 °C). Mash for one hour before collecting wort for boiling. Boil 60 minutes, adding hops and spices at times indicated. Cool the wort, oxygenate if using a liquid strain, and pitch the yeast. Once fermentation is complete, rack into a secondary on top of the cacao nibs and leave for 7–10 days (or to your liking). Bottle or keg the beer as usual.  

Notes from the Brewer: 
This recipe was originally designed by ChatGPT. The initial output suggested the use of 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) of Maris Otter, Wyeast 1098 (British Ale Yeast), and 1 tsp. each of cinnamon and nutmeg. However, I decided to enhance the malt profile with an additional amount of Maris Otter and opted for Imperial Yeast’s A10 to contribute unique characteristics. I also dialed back the spices and added brewing salts based on my water profile, which you may consider as well.